When Jesus got his hair streaked

Jesus has green streaks in his hair and wears a slightly bewildered look. Judas, in a sleeveless bomber jacket and red highlights, is nervous and wired up, just like you’d expect. Mary Magdalene sports a short bob and a leather jacket and red feathers dangle from her ears — this could only be Jesus Christ Superstar.

Everyone’s favourite retelling of ‘the greatest story ever told’ gets a fresh update with Jesus Christ Superstar — Stripped!, a musical put together by four theatre groups in the city — Stagefright Productions, Nicholas Productions, High Kicks All Girls Dance Ensemble, and Royal Flush Productions.

Chennai is no stranger to this evergreen musical. In fact, the first production of JCS, as it is popularly known, in Asia was staged in Madras by the students of Madras Christian College (according to an article in The Hindu dated May 18, 2009). And since then, the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice classic has been performed everywhere from school auditoriums to multiple times at The Music Academy and, of course, the hallowed Museum Theatre. Chennai’s theatre groups, the Boardwalkers under Michael Muthu in particular, have staged the rock musical more than five times in the last two decades.

The brainchild of Freddy Koikaran of Stagefright Productions, and Denver Anthony Nicholas of Nicholas Productions, who wanted to do their version of JCS purely because they loved the musical, this production started off like a local high school performance. Volunteers and seasoned performers came together to learn lines and perform alongside theatre artists, who were happy to just rehearse for the love of the stage. As Freddy says, it was initially about “finding people who were interested to perform for the sake of performing”.

Later, they brought in Aparna Nagesh of High Kicks All Girls Dance Ensemble to do the choreography, and Amit Singh of Royal Flush Productions joined as producer. They went from performing at Spaces in Besant Nagar without mics and costumes to putting up four shows over the weekend at Museum Theatre. Things seem to be falling into place quite fortuitously for this bunch — and they’re not ruling out the prospect of divine intervention.

We sat in on a rehearsal with the cast and the seven-piece band, who came together for the first time to do the music for the show, and it’s quite a riot, in a space that can’t seem to contain the boundless energy of the 35-member cast. And what a cast it is — singers who have learned how to dance, dancers getting vocal training to sing (in fact, one of the lead roles — Mary Magdalene — is played by a dancer who has learnt to sing over the last three months of rehearsal), and some are newcomers taking the stage for the first time.

The band is louder than anyone in the rehearsal space, and the actors filling up the makeshift stage can hardly be heard — but no one seems to be fazed. They know their lines, they know their moves and they seem to be in tune with every note. This Stripped! version looks like the greatest story ever, is getting a fresh new avatar.

Jesus Christ Superstar - Stripped! will have four shows at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on September 10 and 11, at Museum Theatre, Egmore. Tickets are available online through Call 98409 07755 for queries.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 10:36:25 PM |

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